“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” I John 4:7-8 (NIV)
I ran into a friend last week who was telling me about her stellar job at being a failure as a mom, yet again, or it felt like to her. It was a busy week for their family, trying to coordinate everyone’s schedule and then adding a few extras in just to keep things interesting.
As she was finishing up the usual morning routine, she got a phone call from one of her children whom she thought had already started the school day.
“Change of plans, mom. I can’t come home on the bus after all. Everyone’s staying and I need you to bring me my stuff.”
Since my friend’s “after school hours” were more busy than her morning routine, she quickly changed gears, grabbed the things her child needed and took a detour to deliver the items on the way to start her day, a little later now than usual. The whole time she was berating herself because she didn’t know about the after school event and labeled herself the “bad mom” because her child would be the only one without a contribution. Considering making another detour to the store first just didn’t fit into the schedule of dropping off her child’s gear before returning the borrowed vehicle, since her car was in the shop.
However, six hours later, she received another phone call, again from her same child. “Can you bring me _____?” My friend could sense that what was asked for wasn’t what was really needed. She could hear the “bad day” in her child’s voice and read between the lines. So, rearranging her schedule once again, she drove back to the school, praying the whole time for her Heavenly Father to comfort His child in the way that only He could. When she arrived, even though she only had a few minutes, she wrapped her arms around her child and whispered how much she loved the one she called her own, making sure not to embarrass her child in front of any friends that could be lingering.
She left the parking lot a second time that day, this time realizing that her child didn’t see her as a failure the way she saw herself that morning. She might have dropped the ball and the contribution earlier in the day, unintentionally, but when it really mattered, when her child needed her more than ever, she dropped everything and was there, even if only for two minutes. Even if the drive back and forth was longer than the hug, she tuned into her child and made sure to deliver.
Later, when her child called to say it was time to come home, my friend made sure to take the drive alone, knowing that 20 minutes in the car was necessary for her child to talk about the day and my friend was ready to be 100% present. It wasn’t a time for lectures, it wasn’t even a time to be taught “what Jesus would do”… it was just a time to listen and empathize, remembering herself how hard growing up can be.
My friend taught me an important lesson that afternoon, one I’ve thought of often when I almost missed the deadline for turning in conference preference times, when I had to pay fines at the library due to late fees and when I flat out refused to get off the couch for the fifth time in 20 minutes to see one more bird outside the window. We aren’t failures, friends, when we miss an occasional deadline or event that our child is participating in. Failing is choosing not to show up on the parenting journey. Continuing to make the effort, even when we sometimes get it wrong, is what really counts in the long run.
© Cheri Swalwell 2016